Monday, July 17, 2006


Do No Harm

Apparently, some wacko doctors think that strapping a helpless man to a gurney and poisoning him to death may be somehow cruel. Consequently, many doctors have refused to participate in executions, which has led to the de facto moratoriums that have sprung up in a number of states across the country. Now, I'll be the first to admit that this is not going to be the issue that ends the death penalty, but we should all take heart from the fact that the American Medical Association, recognizing that the duty of a doctor to heal cannot be reconciled with executions, have called on their members not to participate in executions.

A statement from William G. Plested, the president of the AMA, follows:

"The American Medical Association is troubled by continuous refusal of many state courts and legislatures to acknowledge the ethical obligations of physicians, which strictly prohibit physician involvement in a legally authorized execution. The AMA's policy is clear and unambiguous - requiring physicians to participate in executions violates their oath to protect lives and erodes public confidence in the medical profession.

"A physician is a member of a profession dedicated to preserving life when there is hope of doing so. The use of a physician's clinical skill and judgment for purposes other than promoting an individual's health and welfare undermines a basic ethical foundation of medicine - first, do no harm.

"The guidelines in the AMA Code of Medical Ethics address physician participation in executions involving lethal injection. The ethical opinion explicitly prohibits selecting injection sites for executions by lethal injection, starting intravenous lines, prescribing, administering, or supervising the use of lethal drugs, monitoring vital signs, on site or remotely, and declaring death.

"As the voice of American medicine, the AMA urges all physicians to remain dedicated to our ethical obligations that prohibit involvement in capital punishment."

* * *
The National Alliance on Mental Illness and the American Psychological Association have both called for a halt to all executions. It is gratifying to see more and more members of the health care community take notice that executions are no solution to our society's problems.

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